Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Looking Inward

The wise counsel to use what one has, may sound ambiguous to many who consider themselves as belonging to the category of have-nots. The ambiguity lies in the fact that people always look outside for happiness or sadness. But if we can pause for a moment and look inside of ourselves by way of introspection, we would be astonished at how much potentialities are buried within our treasure vaults. Vincent NNANNA

A twentieth century philosopher says that every child comes to earth with its own supplies. This axiom, much as it is not some argument in favour of what is considered by many as the principle of predestination, points to the fact that each human being possesses in equal measure the same spiritual elements derived from our Creator. This is supported by the fact in the first Book of the Bible which says that God made man (and woman) in His image, after His likeness. (Genesis chapter 1 verse 26). A grain of rice if sowed in the soil cannot sprout forth to yield mango fruits any more than the image and likeness of God can be anything less than its Creator. God being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresence, man and woman made in his likeness must of necessity, possess all power, be all-knowing and can be ever-present. In essence, man coexists with the Creator. The image before the mirror cannot be different from who or what it reflects. This is the fact which prophet Elisha sought to establish when a widow who had lost her husband in a battle tended to believe that the end had come for her and her two sons who were about to be whisked away by creditors on account of some huge debt she had inherited from her late husband. While she looked up to her creditors for debt reschedulement or conditions other than taking away her two sons into slavery, Prophet Elisha turned her attention inward to the realization of her true worth. Obviously, a debt that would warrant the confiscation of a widow’s two male children should be worth more than the value of a mere pot of oil. But this widow had between her and the creditors a pot of oil and her two sons.
To get a clearer picture of the situation, let us look at the Hebrew meaning of pot. This word is rendered sir, a vessel made of various sizes, and of different materials, earthenware and metal; and used for manifold purposes, such as boiling flesh, reforming metals and storing water for domestic use or oil. Tracing African history back to our Jewish ancestry, one could compare the pot of oil to our ancient earthen water pots or calabash with capacity ranging from 10 to 15 litres. My mother has one.
Doesn’t it sound bizarre to ask a widow who has inherited a debt she did not incur, to go a borrowing? The average person will consider this command as a suicide bid. But that looks like what the radical prophet asked the woman to embark upon. After he had assessed the woman’s agonizing condition, and seeking to help her out of her delusion, he had inquired of her what she had left in store. That is to say, how much is she worth? Many people in responding to this type of inquiry would be inclined to answering in the negative considering the insignificant quantity of the pot of oil vis-à-vis the huge debt burden hanging on her neck like an albatross. Many a times we consider what we have as too little in proportion to our liabilities, and we end up declaring that we don’t have anything at all.
It is an established law of nature that gratitude for benefits already received engenders the opportunity for more blessings. The widow’s recognition of what resources she had, no matter how little, turned out to be the catalyst for abundant blessings that attended her confession. It didn’t matter to the prophet how little oil the woman had. It didn’t matter that she was already a celebrated debtor. It didn’t bother him that society would naturally turn down an appeal for loan from a chronic debtor. All he cared for was that this outwardly poor widow had some hidden treasure which she recognized and had acknowledged. He then says to her, “Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours’ even empty vessels; borrow not a few” (II Kings 4:3). Hard word, you think. But the first approach to obtaining our miracle is gratitude for benefits already received. This involves recognition of spiritual endowments which take various forms with various people. The second step is in humble and implicit obedience to the voice of wisdom. This can come in the form of a good counsel from an expert, a suggestion from a not-too important person by human assessment, or the still small voice. The widow’s response to those rules is most exemplary, for she promptly dispatched her two sons to the task of borrowing empty vessels of all shapes and sizes from apprehensive neighbours. She did not fear that her creditors might lay hands on the boys and kidnap them on account of the debt. She disobeyed traffic rules. She did not question what to do with empty vessels from neighbours, some of whom she had not interacted with for some time since she retired into self solitude. She simply followed orders like a soldier in the infantry division of the army. According to the Scripture, she did not go about gossiping her situation with neighbours or trying to consult other women regarding the prophet’s queer counsel. She simply locked up herself and started filling the empty vessels from the meager supply without any iota of doubt whatsoever. It appears to me that oil was in short supply at that season of the year hence she couldn’t afford more than one small pot, and there were many empty containers in the city.
Having exhausted all the empty vessels in the city, the man of God who had stood guard between the woman and the God of abundance now came down from the figurative mountain, gave thanks to the almighty and ordered the ever-grateful widow, “Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest (II Kings 4:7(b).
Looking at external exigencies of life denies us of the opportunity of recognizing the seed of God implanted in our very bosom. Comparing ourselves with others makes us loose sight of our own capabilities. It is only in recognizing our heaven-endowed treasures can we be truly grateful, which in turn, begets multiple blessings. On the other hand, constantly resorting to our inward part will link us to the voice of silence and make us aware of whatever steps or direction the almighty intends for us to follow. As the Scripture say, “thine ear shall hear a word behind thee saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30: 21). A song I learned in early childhood says, “Count your blessings, and name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
There is no limit to what God can do except the limitations in your thinking as to what God cannot do.


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